I met her in Blantyre.
We were a group of climbers traveling through Africa, in for the adventure of a lifetime. Secretly, we hoped that maybe there would be someone special there for us, too.
And there she was, her auburn hair falling just above her shoulders, framing a set of rosy cherub cheeks, piercing green eyes, and sun-kissed skin.
“Jase, would you like to go with me into the city tomorrow?” she asked.
I felt like I was about to win the lottery. Over the moon, I tried – probably pathetically – to hide my enthusiasm.
The next day we took the short ferry ride into the city of Dar es Salaam, and spent the day touring about, gathering items we would need before our trip out to the magical island of Zanzibar.
We wandered through ancient markets, brimming with the fresh catch of the day. The jostling swell of humans pushed us closer together like leaves floating on ripples, destined to meet. Her eyes gleamed at me over her shoulder as we wove through the crowd.
We met a group of friends later and took a motor rickshaw to our campsite. She sat on my lap the entire way, a blitz of African landscape blurring by like a tripped-out music video. I felt an intoxication that had nothing to do with the scenery.
I still couldn't believe my luck. I used to stare at her like a tired Bedouin does a mirage.
Late at night, we wandered the beaches of the Indian Ocean – the taste of salt on her lips, the bioluminescent material glowing and crashing about as we tumbled in the waves.
On the final night of our trip, the air felt heavier. The anxiety of having to say goodbye loomed in both our minds.
“You should come with me…” I said, convincing her to continue our adventure.
Later, after over a year on the road and twenty or so countries, it was “You should move to Canada with me.”
And when she did, other suggestions followed – other reasons not to part.
I would love to tell you that it all worked out. We eventually both made choices of “me,” rather than “us”.
To this day, I carry a picture of her in my wallet. Old grains of dust have sullied the creases, but not the life of adventure we had.
We need this romance. We need these memories we keep banked in our back pockets – the final grain remaining from a fistful of sand.
When I look at the photograph, I think of her hair blowing back as we cruised in longtail boats in the Andaman Sea; I think of the year we road-tripped to California just for a change; I think of the time our tent was washed away in a flood in central India. I think of how sick she got in Pakistan and how I tried to nurse her back to health, and then in Laos, how she repaid the favor.
Mostly, I think of two young souls, completely caught up in the moment – willing to risk it all for love and the road.
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Jase has an MSc in Sustainable Tourism Development. Whether trekking in the Himalaya, climbing in Norway, or photographing the markets of Marrakech, he is always inspired by adventure.
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I ended up renting a town house steps away from the main piazza, and this really became our house. During the day, my uncle and I would eat lunch and hang out at the table. I would wake him up from his post-pasta daze, and we’d walk down to the bar for some coffee. It was around this time that I would usually send her a message, and we would be back at my place in the evening—just the two of us. That barrier between us was still there, and I could tell that she often felt bad for being with me too much, and then for not being with me enough. Hanging around in rural Sicily really put all of my senses to work, but after spending a lot of time with her alone, all the fried garlic, hot espresso, and fresh-squeezed blood oranges on the island couldn’t wake me. Being with Giulia was like lying on cool grass that could suddenly turn into hot ashes. And we both liked fumbling to mash the grapes before the fire. The earth roared when I looked into her green eyes; so much so, that I soon expected everyone else to understand why the stones split between my feet. I caught myself thinking less about getting to know my cousins, or investigating the local mountain-top castle, and discovering new trails in the Monti Peloritani: my time in Sicily ended up being about her.
Really enjoyed the story, romantic, hopeful, nostalgic and adventurous.
Such a beautiful story, so magically told! It made me feel like I was there with you in spirit amidst your incredible adventures, the sweetness and bitterness of love. Thanks for sharing it with us. I hope one day to travel as much as you do. I'm just getting started. You can find more adventures on my blog: globaljuliana.com
Great story, particularly the way you told it. It is perhaps the dream of all of us who travel solo, or with a buddy who would understand.